Starpath Online Course General Instructions that Apply to all Courses
General Procedure
Practice Quizzes

Printing Options

Student Discussion
Other Discussion Notes
Search Function
Course Completion
eCharts & GRIB files
General procedure for working through the course...

Read the lesson assignments from the first topic of each lesson. This will have a lesson title in all capital letters (i.e., 1.1 — INTRODUCTION or 3.1 — GLOBAL WINDS). Then do the reading from the texts and software as called for on each lesson. All of the online materials can be printed for reading offline. There might also be practice exercises to carry out. If at any point in your study you have a question about what was assigned or what you have read, then you can either search the Student Discussion group for your answer, or post your own question in the Discussion Group. At the end of the lesson there is at least one practice quiz that you can use to confirm that the recommended materials are understood. The quizzes are discussed below.

There are additional links in the classroom to other references and related articles.  These extra links are all optional materials to look at. All of the syllabus and quizzes are based on our own textbooks and workbooks.  See samples of pages from inside the course including more notes on procedures.

One efficient way to organize your study is to print out the Practice Quiz at the beginning of a lesson, and use it as a study guide marking the items we want to be sure are covered in that lesson.  Then as you read through the assignments you will spot the answers we are focusing on and can mark them on the print out.  When you have all of the questions answered, you are ready to return to the quiz online, post your answers, print or save a copy for your records, and submit it to be scored by the instructor. When checking your numerical work from computations or plotting or reading charts and maps with the provided solutions, keep in mind these notes on Getting the Right Answer.

Log out when you are finished
In these days where users have multiple browsers and using multiple tabs, it is best to log out of the course when you are done with an active session, rather than just minimizing the browser, or closing it, or turning the computer off. It is rare to have issues with this, but logging out will minimize possible confusion about whether you are logged in or not.

If you cannot log in or are told you are already logged in but cannot get in, then use link to make a clean logout so you can start again.

Ask questions as needed
If for any reason at all you are uncertain about what to do next or how to access any assignment, then please post a question in the Student Discussion Forum.  This forum is not just for discussing content; we can also help with more general course matter as needed. If there are technical matters about accessing course content that are not easily answered in a post, we will ask you to call us and we will work these out over the phone.  All course content questions, on the other hand, should be posted in the Student Discussion forum.

Check the Student Discussion Forum frequently and skim through all new posts
This is the active classroom where important topics are raised, new content is announced, individual quiz questions and workbook examples are discussed, sometimes with new video illustration, and general news of interest to navigators is presented. Following and taking part in the discussion is a key part of the course presentation.

Remember the ebooks
Your course materials come with printed books, however various ebook options for the main texts are available. For comfortable reading, the printed editions are often preferred, but when traveling or for looking up specific topics, the ebooks are very convenient. The search, highlight, and annotation functions of ebooks make them especially useful when studying. Our textbooks and workbooks are available in the most popular ebook formats as an optional purchase.

Lesson Terminology (Glossary)
Each lesson has a selected list of terms presented in the bar on the left of the Assignments page. It is a standing part of the assignment to read the definitions of these terms. The glossary can be very helpful answering some practice questions. There are often short multiple choice quiz questions on terminology. You can reach the glossary from within the course or from any browser at We share our glossary with the marine community.

Videos and Articles
Extra content beyond what is in the text is included inside each course. The main video resource is the Course Video Index. We also have supplemental articles ( and more videos ( outside the course that we refer to. These address special topics in navigation and weather or illustrate standard procedures. If a question comes up in class that is not clear from what we have, then we stop and make a video to clarify it.

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Practice quizzes...

Each lesson includes at least one practice quiz at the end. There are multiple choice as well as numerical solutions, and some that ask for a short written explanation. The purpose of the quizzes is to double check that key features of the lesson have been mastered. 

The quizzes, however, are part of the training. These are not like tests in school! If a question is not clear to you, or you are not confident about your solution, you can post a question about the question before you submit the quiz. Our goal is that the subject matter be understood on a practical level that will ultimately help with your decision making and more discussion always helps with that.  Likewise when you get your scored quiz back and then have access to the solutions we provide, you are encouraged to ask about them as needed.

One hint to all quizzes is the multiple choice questions are almost always directly tied to terminology, and the answers to these are found in the Glossary. There is generally one multiple choice for each assigned new term for that lesson.

Since the quizzes are part of the training, they are sometimes not simply asking for rote repeat of a stated fact, but involve thinking about the question or how it might relate to other things that have been treated specifically.  On the other hand, if any of these seem to wander too far off the content as directly presented, just post a question for more discussion of what is intended by the question.

In some multiple choice, you might benefit from ruling out the answers that are definitely not right, and then choosing from the better or more general of what is left.  This is very good training for USCG exams, in particular those that deal with the Nav Rules. More generally, though, the very process of ruling out some answers reflects understanding of the topics at hand.

The weight of each question in the over all score is listed next to the question number. In some quizzes they are all the same; in others they can differ quite a bit for those that take longer to solve. Some questions have no weight, and the answer or input to those will not affect the score... even if we forget to mark them right! Here is a summary of tips on working quizzes The question numbers are in order, but some numbers may be skipped.

See important note below on Printing Quizzes after you type in your answers before pushing the submit button.

Quiz solutions
You can find your solutions after they have been scored at My Account link.  This link shows up on each of the quiz pages as well as on the top right of the Resources page.  My Account link is where you can also change your email address or password.

Please read all quiz solutions
After you receive email notice that your quiz has been scored, please go to the solutions and skim through all of them, even the ones you got right. We ask this because we often add notes or related information there that might not appear other places.

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Printing Options...

Print the Practice Quizzes
At the end of each lesson there is a practice quiz that is intended to summarize the main points of the lesson. We recommend that at the beginning of each lesson you print out the practice quiz (link at the top of the tan band on the left) and use it as a work form to record the things you learn from your reading. (Please note that some questions have special links to charts or tables that might be needed. Please print them as well. Sometimes the General Instructions that apply to all questions will have similar links you will need.) 

When the quiz is filled out, you are ready to go back to the online quiz, transcribe your answers to the online form. Once they are all typed in, please make another copy of the quiz as discussed below, and then submit them to be scored. Once scored, you will get an email from the instructor with notes on the quiz, after which you can look at the full solutions at the My Accounts link (must be logged in to see them).

Please... print or save your entered solutions before submitting
To insure that you have transcribed your answers from your working copy of the quiz to the online submission page, please make another copy of the page you are about to submit just before submitting it. This provides a final check that no transcription errors were made or questions missed, and the instructor gets what you intended.

A practical option to paper printing before submitting is to save what you have typed in as a pdf file on your computer. Most computers these days have a print to pdf option (video of the process). Call us if you need help with this. An alternative when working away from your own computer is to use the print button (top of the tan panel on the left), then copy that content and paste it into an email to yourself. This will provide a record of what you submitted. We are always extremely sad when a student says I am sure I marked the correct answer, but the score says I missed the question. You have the power to insure that this never happens, and it takes just seconds!

Print a degree sign ( ° )
For some of your answers you may want to use a degree sign, such 47°. To type a degree sign from within any discussion group or quiz, type Ctrl+1. This is a custom keystroke we have set up for within the course; it is not part of any operating system. See special characters. Or you can just use as asterisk (*), such as 47* 23.5'. Everyone will know what that means.

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Student Discussion Forums...

The Starpath online courses include over 19 years of archived student discussions. These are grouped according to the course topic, but students do have access to more than what is just in their course. The main resource in each course is called the Student Discussion Forum. This archive is a key resource to your training as it is effectively equivalent to having attended hundreds of courses on the same topic as you can search the discussion from all of them.

Ask for help by posting a question
Please remember there are no "spoilers."  You can ask a question on any topic, even on specific quiz questions. In fact it is usually helpful to list in subject line of your post the exact quiz question or practice exercise that raised the question, such as IN05-0006. This is often the most efficient route to the answer if there is a specific question involved. Here is a video example of how to post a question.

If you do not get the right answers to practice questions, or have any questions about the lesson or assignments, then you can ask the instructor about it by posting a new topic in the Student Discussion forum. The New Topic link is on the top right of each discussion page. If you care to, you can make a practice post on the page called Radio Check. That is a quick and easy way to see how this works.

Newest replies to a topic at the end
When you open a topic or find one of interest, you will see the replies are dated, and the newest replies are at the end of the list. It can also be that early replies are now outdated for various reasons, so it could be most efficient to work up from the bottom. Or if you have a new issue on this same question, just start a new topic on it.

When you post a question
Give a brief headline of the question in the topic's Subject line. This helps other readers find what you have asked about. If the question relates to a specific quiz question or practice exercise then including the question number in the subject line is a good starting point.

Use a separate post for separate topics or subjects
Please make a separate post for each different subject of your question, rather than include multiple unrelated questions in the same post. This helps keep the database of questions organized by topic so it is more helpful to others in the future. It is also easier then for the instructor to answer the questions one at a time if short of time. If you do have multiple questions, there is no problem at all posting several topics at the same time.

How to post a picture or graphic in the student discussion
You can post a picture or graphic related to your ongoing discussion in the student discussion forum. The limit is 800 pixels wide, and not larger than 300kb total file size. You do this with a button just above the input field where the text is typed. Press that button, then navigate to the location on your computer where the picture is, and select it. The image will not appear in the preview of the post, you must fully post the new topic before the image will appear.

One easy way to make the picture is just take a cell phone pic of the plot or drawing and then mail it to yourself, choosing a size less than 300k. Many phones tell you the size before sending. The smallest will usually do fine, i.e. on an iPhone a typical email might offer these options:  small 40 kb, medium 107 kb, large 546 kb, or actual 2.1 MB.  New phones often offer the option to crop pictures even before this stage, which helps limit the size.  Then check your mail in your computer, and save the image to a place you can find, then when posting the pic just navigate to that location and select it. 

If you get a notice that the picture you are trying to post is too big or too wide, you can adjust the picture size with MS Paint in a PC or with Preview in a Mac.... or other graphics programs. These are the ones included in the two operating systems, so everyone has them. If anyone has trouble with this, let us know, and we will post a video on the process.  We also have other options for sending instructors a cellphone pic of your work, for example. This is covered in the courses.

A screen capture is often in the PNG format. Using either of the above apps you can change this to JPG which is usually much smaller.

Note: there cannot be any special characters in the file name (letters, numbers, a dash, or underscore only).

Time tags for displayed posts
The times shown in the forums for posts and replies are Pacific Coast times. PDT in the summer; PST in the winter.

How long to wait for an answer
Generally we are prompt with answers. We have instructors in five different time zones, and at least two instructors for each course, usually three. But we are not always on watch over the weekend, and we might get busy with other tasks. So we ask you to please let us know if we are ever longer than 48 hours in getting back to you with an answer or quiz score. This is especially important on your first quiz. More than once we have found that a wrong email was entered on registration so the score notice never arrived. Your quiz scores along with the solutions show up in the My Account link, once the quiz has been scored.

When answering or following up on discussion
Please use the Reply button when commenting on an ongoing topic rather than start a new topic. Again, this helps organize the discussion for future reference.

Student answers to posted questions
We encourage students to take part in the discussion. The discussion is a key part of the training. If you know the answer to another student's question, or have a comment on another question, please post it as a reply. Essentially without exception, these extra comments add to the ongoing discussion and everyone, including the instructors, benefit from your participation.

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Other Discussion Notes...

Please read the discussions
We encourage all to read the ongoing student discussions. Even if you have not posted a question and waiting for an answer, if you see that there is new discussion (a yellow light bulb on the topic), it will likely be valuable more often than not to skim though it to see what is discussed. Oftentimes, new outlooks or more details on course materials are presented there in the answers. Likewise if you have some spare time to work on the course, you might just page through the existing topics to see if anything catches your eye that might be of interest. If you spot something this way that raises questions for you, you can reply to that topic and it will bring it to the top of the list for us to discuss more.

Check yellow light bulbs for new posts
A quick way to tell if there is something new posted in your course is to note the light bulbs to the left of the forum names. They will turn yellow whenever there is a new post in that section.

Public Discussion forums
We also have special discussion groups on specific topics that are open to the public to read, but only webcard holders can post questions or replies. Students who are not taking part in a specific course can still ask questions in the public discussions and an instructor will answer it. In other words, if you are taking a weather course, for example, and have a radar question, you can post this in the public discussion of radar. See for an index to these public forums. On the other hand, if you are signed up for a course, we ask you to use the student discussion for that course for course related questions.

More than one page of topics
In the discussion forums, please be aware that there are more than one page of information for that section. Look for a tiny page number at the top right or bottom right of each page to see how many pages there are.

Practice with USCG Exam Questions
This is not required for any of our courses, but if you wish to practice any topic by working USCG exam questions, just post a request in the Student Discussion Forum. We have the full database of questions available to you that you can customize to meet your needs.

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Search Options...

Search option
On the top right of each discussion page there is a tiny link called "Search." This lets you search over the many years of in class discussion we have recorded. Chances are very good that you can find the answer to your question in that search function. You can search the Student Discussion Forum on any subject, which might be a way to find the answer to your question. If there is a question number, that is often a good way to track down related discussion. Or try other keywords.

Summary of Search Options
Since we have more than 15 years of archived student questions and answers available to you, chances are good that you can find an answer on your own more quickly that writing it up and waiting for an instructor. There are several ways to look for an answer or more information on a specific topic. Step one is think of a few keywords that will identify the subject of your inquiry.

(1) Search Student Discussion Forum (maybe even Public Discussion). See video example of forum searching.

(2) Search ebook copy of the texts provided. Remember that most courses come with ebooks of several references, not just the main text. All of these can be searched as well. This process is explained in the Help link in the menu bar of the elibra ebook reader.

(3) Search full Starpath website. This is a powerful option sometimes overlooked. You get to it from the link on our home page or go directly from here search  Instructions are provided for customizing your search. i.e. a search for pressure tendency will bring way more than you likely want, so enter "pressure tendency" with quotes to home in on the term. There are other customizations allowed.

(4) Remember the Glossary contains a lot of information. Each lesson assigns new terms and gives the definitions, but you can go directly to the full glossary from any browser at by The full starpath website search also includes the Glossary.

(5) In the Weather Course and the Radar Course you also have software with powerful search engines as well... that is Starpath Radar Trainer (search Tutorial and Help files) and Starpath Weather Trainer Live has a full program search engine that covers the full extensive set of materials it includes.

If you do not find your answer with the above searches, then just post a new topic and an instructor will help you.

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eCharts and GRIB files...

Inland and Coastal Navigation Course
For the Inland and Coastal Navigation course we use the free, open-source navigation program called OpenCPN. It is a versatile, well designed program with many useful features. There is a PC and Mac version. For the Inland and Coastal Nav course we use this with our training chart 18456tr to solve nav problems electronically to compare with traditional paper chart solutions. Training chart 18465tr is a raster navigational chart (RNC), which is a direct graphic image of the corresponding paper chart. OpenCPN includes graphic and digital tides and currents, as well as all standard waypoint and route functions. 

Use of the program is optional but recommended. A link to the program download as well as the18565tr training chart download is at the course support page  Note that the training chart version we use 18465tr is different in several key details from the NOAA chart 18465.

We have videos on how to download and install program and chart in the Course Video Index

Electronic Chart Navigation Course
This course focuses on the use of vector charts called electronic navigational charts (ENC). For this course we use the free navigation program called qtVlm, which is specialized to ENC display and interaction. Program and training chart packages for this course are linked within the course as this tool is not optional, but indeed required to learn to read and interact with ENC.

Marine Weather Course
In our Marine Weather course we encourage the use of some form of grib viewer software to display digital wind, wave, and currents model forecasts presented in grib format. There are several options discussed in the course. The nav program qtVlm is a recommended one as it also performs enhanced sailboat weather routing.

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Course Completion...

Certification of Course Completion
We offer several ways to document your course completion and achievements. The certificates provide written record of your work. They are recognized by bare-boat charter companies and insurance companies that offer discounts based upon educational courses. Certificates of this type can be especially valuable for operations in some foreign countries which require documentation to authorize boat operations by any crew other than the declared master of the vessel. See Notes on Certification and Licensing. See also Notes on Starpath Certification

Course Time Extension
The normal time period for course completion is one year, but this can be extended by extending your webcard, which provides your access to the courses and to all Starpath online resources. Your registration in the course does not expire, so you can take part as long as you have an active webcard.

Your course registration does not time out, but you must have an active webcard to access the online course and other Starpath Resources and discussion forums. The course registration includes a webcard that lasts for one year. If for any reason you wish to have access to the course and other resources beyond that period, you can purchase a webcard extension then register the extension at the bottom of the page, using your same username and password.

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